A shelter has become the beneficiary of an Eagle Scout’s project, inspired by his mother’s decade of fostering kittens.
Mt. Laurel resident Liam Doherty had an easy decision to make in 2018 when deciding on what do for his Eagle Scout project – he wanted to help the Voorhees Animal Orphanage.
“My mother had been fostering kittens since I was 11 or 12, and (VAO) was the one where we got the kittens from,” Doherty said. “I knew that their benches were deteriorating, and I picked up the project from seeing it over time.”
Doherty, of Troop 20 in Medford, was awarded a proclamation by the Medford Township Council at its Oct. 1 meeting. He obtained the prestigious status – the highest ranking a Boy Scout can achieve – in July.
His idea came to fruition in October 2018, when eight benches built by Doherty and his support team were given to the shelter and placed in its outside areas.
Jennifer Bailey, VAO marketing director, said people and dogs alike use the benches when meeting for potential adoptions and playing with one another. Dogs, she added, will have their trainings done on the benches for commands such as “sit” or “stay.”
“If someone like Liam didn’t make them, we’d have nothing,” Bailey added.
The donated benches were significantly sturdier than the shelter’s previous seating, Bailey remarked. Old seating at the shelter had been tossed out due to their poor conditions.
The VAO, she said, is 100 percent funded by the municipalities it serves and by generous donations from the community. The shelter has been on the receiving end of many other Eagle Scout projects, which helps it continue to expand.
Doherty, a Burlington County Institute of Technology-Medford graduate, said completing the project put an immense amount of pressure on him, as he was juggling classes at Rowan University, tutoring for 20 hours a week and maintaining his nearly 20 volunteers.
“We had groups for cutting wood, sanding and construction,” he added. “Running around them and coordinating them was probably the most challenging part.”
Doherty said he knew from the start of planning his Eagle Scout project that he wanted to benefit the VAO because of his mom’s influence.
Doherty’s mom, Brenda, fosters “bottle-fed” kittens for the shelter. The kittens need to be fed every four hours, and the VAO considers her a reliable and constant foster.
Bailey said it’s common for kids to donate items or volunteer after seeing what their parents have done. Currently, however, the shelter has put accepting Eagle Scout projects on hold while it is undergoing renovations and expansions until mid-February, weather permitting. She hopes to get them to come out when the weather gets warmer for projects such as landscaping.
“[Projects are] a win-win for us,” Bailey said. “We love helping (Scouts) obtain their badges and they’re very sincere about helping us.”
Doherty said having the title of Eagle Scout under his belt has equipped him with a variety of skills he’s been able to use recently, such as time management, leadership and conducting himself during an interview.
“It’s extremely rewarding and worth the time and experience,” Doherty said. “I would encourage young boys to do the same.”